Self-Care for When You’re Low on Spoons

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“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” we’ve all heard someone cry out as they prance off to the spa, salon, or Starbucks. I’ve seen a lot of people promote the idea of self-care and how necessary it is, yet the suggestions they make tend to be expensive or require a ton of energy.

While I would love a day at the spa, or even an hour at a salon getting a pedicure, those are activities that I rarely have the spoons, or energy, to do. Even for people with ample amounts of money and time, these suggestions tend to be things you do every once in awhile, not daily.

Personally, I think we all need to practice a little self-care every single day. That’s why I want to share with you all a list of self-care activities that can be done even when you’re low on spoons.

1. Disconnect

The world is a scary place. Every day my news feed fills up with one terrifying article after another. People are angry and sad, and have every right to be. Hell, I’m angry and sad. But sometimes, I need to step away.

I’m not saying don’t pay attention to the news or ignore the problems of the world. We need to pay attention so that we can keep fighting for what’s right. However, it’s ok to not see every news story as soon as it’s published. I’ve tried to do that and I end up deeply depressed and severely anxious. So, I try to remember to break away from it all every now and then, even if only for a few hours.

It absolutely is a privilege to be able to do that, but it’s necessary for me in order to keep fighting. All the negative emotions that the news elicits weigh heavily on me, even as I actively fight to make things better. Taking a break allows me to recharge so that I can rejoin the battle, stronger than before.

2. Journal

I’m a writer, so it’s no surprise that writing is a great way for me to release some emotions and clear my mind. There’s something about putting all my feelings onto paper that makes them seem more manageable than before. Journaling also helps me organize my thoughts and come up with plans of action.

If I can’t think of anything to journal about, I sometimes look up quotes or journal prompts and use those to get started. Even just making lists about things I’m grateful for, things that are going right, what I hope for the future, etc, can help lighten the emotional load on my shoulders. Writing angry rants that you never plan to show anyone else can also help you vent, especially if you tear the paper up later. For some reason, tearing paper just feels so damn good!

What you write about doesn’t matter nearly as much as the action of doing it. It’s a safe way to release and process all the emotions you’ve been bottling up, and maybe you’ll even find a love for writing you never had before.

3. Play like a kid

One of the beautiful things about childhood, is how carefree you get to be. Going back to some of the activities we loved as a kid is soothing, as it transports us back to a simpler time in our lives.

Coloring, puzzles, word jumbles, mad libs, reading comics, or watching cartoons, can all be surprisingly relaxing. I have some coloring books I keep by my bed and a jigsaw puzzle app on my phone, both of which help me to go into an almost meditative trance as I focus on a simple and achievable task.

Here are some awesome choices for adult coloring books you can find on Amazon:

4. Get Crafting

Creating something new is always a confidence booster, and focusing on the task at hand helps keep you in the moment instead of worrying about what the future may bring (something I do way too often). What you can make depends a lot on your abilities and limitations, but I think everyone is capable of creating something.

I know a lot of knitters and crotcheters, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it always hurts my hands, I would be doing it as well. Painting is calming for many, as is drawing or doodling. I write stories or blog posts, but writing poems and songs is equally relaxing. Pottery is actually another favorite craft of mine, whenever I’m able to do it. Sewing, cross-stitch, and quilting all help people I know relax.

Remember, what you create isn’t nearly as important as the action of creating. And you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.

5. Just Laugh

Laughter is proven to reduce stress, as it sends signals to the brain to release happy chemicals, making you feel calmer and, well, happier. When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, finding things to laugh at can be difficult, and by no means is laughing a cure for either depression or anxiety. But, in general, finding little ways throughout the day to laugh helps lift my spirits and ease some of my worries.

Memes are great for this. I’ve joined a few spoonie groups dedicated just to posting funny memes and articles, in order to help us all get a good laugh in. I’ll watch funny movies or TV shows, shout out to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for always making me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve rewatched them.

Joking around with my friends, husband, and daughter, whether through text, social media, or in person, is an easy way to make the world seem a little less dark. A good laugh can help remind me that there’s a lot of good still left in this world.

6. Just Cry

Maybe this seems a little counter-intuitive, but holding back our emotions allows them to fester and grow. We can only distract ourselves so much before our feelings start screaming to be felt.

Giving myself time to cry and feel the pain of living life with chronic illnesses actually helps ease some of the sadness and anxiety that I feel. As I explain in the post Why it’s Absolutely Okay not to Always Feel Positive, we can’t run from our emotions forever. They always find a way to come back and get us. So, allowing yourself some time to process them and actually feel them will help you in the long run.

Watching a sad movie or reading a sad book can often be a safe way to release some backed up emotions.

7. Get Cozy

Being comfortable is a highly underrated form of self-care. On my absolute worst pain or flare days, I try to get as cozy as possible, dressing in soft sweatpants, a perfectly worn in sweatshirt, and some outrageously fuzzy socks, all while wrapping myself in the fluffiest blanket. Add a furry friend to the mix, and you’ll be in comfy bliss! ( I say as my cat Scully is curled up on my arm. It makes it hard to write, but she’s just so damn cute!)

This doesn’t work for everyone. Some people feel better by dressing up or putting on makeup. And I sometimes enjoy those things as well. But nothing makes me feel quite as warm and fuzzy as wearing something warm and fuzzy.

8. Read

This is one that I, unfortunately, struggle to do as often as I would like. I love to read, but it takes a lot of concentration, and therefore spoons, to do. Just writing one blog post can take all my brain power for the day. But, when I have the energy for it, it never fails to relax me.

Getting lost in someone else’s world helps us escape the worries of our own, even if only for a moment. Reading about someone going through the same struggles we’re going through can help us feel less alone in our worries. And reading stories about good triumphing over evil can give us some much needed hope. Losing yourself in a book can oddly help you feel just a little less lost.

And, here’s where I shamelessly plug my own book for you to consider reading, available in paperback and for the Kindle through Amazon and other online book retailers:



This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. Sometimes simply brushing your teeth can be all the self-care you can muster, but these are some of the things I do to help take care of myself each and every day. Whenever I forget about how important self-care is, I always end up regretting it as I spiral into a flare or depressive episode.

However you do it, take care of yourself. It’s the only way we can survive.




I am a mother, partner, teacher, daughter, writer, and blogger. I'm working on turning my private hobby into a public one, whether the public asked for it or not. I have a BA in theatre and a Master's in Education (with a Montessori integration), making me a highly overqualified internet ranter.

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